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Can I pay the council instead of the bailiffs? 2022


For free and impartial money advice and guidance, visit MoneyHelper, to help you make the most of your money.

Those who have the money to pay their debt to the council often ask, ‘Can I pay the council instead of the bailiffs?’ The reason for this is to avoid paying the additional fees that are applied when a debt is given to bailiffs. You can make a payment to the council directly, however, the bailiff fees will still apply. You still must pay the fees, even after making the payment to the council.

If you try to pay the council but don’t include the fees, the bailiffs can take enforcement action to recover the outstanding amount. Read on to learn more about how to avoid paying fees, bailiff visits and how to reduce the cost of bailiffs.

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Can I Avoid Paying the Bailiff Fees?

As stated above, bailiff fees become part of the debt you owe, legally. You cannot expect these fees to disappear if you pay the council the amount owed before bailiff fees were added to that amount. Bailiffs can still visit you and enforce repayment. However, if they are unsuccessful, they may return the warrant to the local authority or the court. The fees are cancelled when bailiffs return a warrant.

Can I Reduce the Cost of the Bailiff?

It is possible to reduce the amount you owe to the bailiffs. The Compliance fee can be limited to £75 if you pay the debt off in full. The bailiffs will stop coming to your home if you clear the debt, including the compliance fee. Additionally, this will stop any additional enforcement fee from being added, which currently stands at £235.

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Can the Debt Be Sent Back to the Council?

If bailiffs can’t collect the money you owe for the debt, they may return the debt to the council. This happens if they are unable to gain entry to your home after trying for a certain period. If a bailiff comes to your home, it’s important not to let them in. Keep your doors locked and only speak to them through a closed, secured door. They don’t have the right to force entry unless they have been allowed in on a previous visit.

Tell the bailiff you will call the office to arrange payment. Work out how much you can pay or what instalments you can afford to pay if you’re unable to pay in full. Have evidence to support your proposed amount with proof of your income. This could be a payslip, bank statement or benefits letters.

How Many Times Can a Bailiff Visit?

Bailiffs should only visit your house three times to collect a debt. However, if you’re not home they can visit more times. You will receive notice of the visit, giving you a 7-day warning. After the first visit, the bailiffs will return after each 7 working days. If you’re home during the first visit you will be able to work out the next time the bailiffs will return.

Can a Bailiff Refuse a Payment Plan?

Yes, bailiffs can refuse a payment plan. If you can’t afford to pay the debt in full, you can still try to negotiate with the bailiffs. Ideally, phone the bailiffs before they visit your home. It will be easier to negotiate if you call the office and you could stop them from knocking at your door. Speak to the bailiffs and ask if you can pay most of the debt off in one payment and organise instalments for the outstanding amount. If you can’t afford a lump sum, ask to set up a repayment plan that you can afford.

How Much Can a Bailiff Charge?

There are three fees’ bailiffs can charge, providing the debt isn’t collected by High Court Bailiffs.


Bailiffs can add extra charges called disbursement costs. These costs are for:

  • Storage costs
  • Locksmith costs
  • Court fees if they need to apply to the court for anything relating to your case
  • The costs incurred when selling your belongings

If the bailiffs want to charge you additional costs, they must apply to the court to have them applied. Request a receipt if you pay the bailiffs the money owed for fees and disbursement costs. The receipt is proof of payment but also can be used if you wish to challenge bailiff charges later on.

Do I Have to Let Bailiffs in for Council Tax?

You don’t have to let bailiffs in for council tax debts. They cannot force entry to your home unless a controlled goods agreement was created during a previous visit. The only way bailiffs can enter your home is if you let them in or the door is left open. They cannot push past you to gain entry, however, I recommend not giving them the chance by ensuring you keep the doors closed and locked, even when talking to them.

When Can Bailiffs Force Entry for Council Tax?

Bailiffs cannot force entry unless the following criteria are met:

  1. They have already been into your home and taken control of your belongings inside
  2. If the bailiff made a controlled goods agreement with you and you have broken the agreement by missing a payment
  3. You were given 2 days’ notice that the bailiffs are coming to your home or to collect the goods

What Should I Do If Bailiffs Send Back a Debt to the Council?

If bailiffs return the debt to the council, you will still need to pay. Contact the council and organise payment as soon as possible to avoid further action. You may be able to arrange affordable repayments at this point. Use the free monthly budget tracker to establish what you can afford.

How Can I Stop Bailiffs for Council Tax?

You can stop bailiffs for council tax by making a payment or arranging a repayment plan that they agree to. If you pay the amount owed to the council, you will still have to pay the bailiff fees and any charges that have been added to the debt.

Speak to a debt advisor if you are worried about bailiffs or wish to stop bailiffs from acting. There are debt solutions that they can give you advice about, which can help stop bailiffs and help you take control of your debts.

Are you struggling with debt?

Affordable repayments

Reduce pressure from people you owe

Stop interest and charges from soaring

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Are you struggling with debt?
Are you struggling with debt?
  • Affordable repayments
  • Reduce pressure from people you owe money to
  • Stop interest and charges from soaring